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The following tips for aspiring guitarists are courtesy of John McCarthy of The Rock House Method, publisher of video lessons for musicians at every skill level.
Scott Henderson; Tulsa, OK
Q: To protect myself, I want to copyright 20 of my original songs before I start playing them live. I have heard people talk about a poor man’s copyright where you send yourself a tape of yourself and don’t open it up. Any advice would be appreciated.
A: Although it is sort of cool getting mail from yourself, it will not protect you and your music.
Your music is very personal and important to you, so you should take the time and copyright your compositions with the US government. It’s a simple and inexpensive process that will make all your music proprietary.
Here is the web address that will guide you through the process www.copyright.gov
Mike Sherman; Baltimore, MD
Q: I have always just fooled around in my own little world improvising over tracks and creating solos for my own music, but now I want to further develop my music theory knowledge.
Say I am playing a chord progression, Am, Fmaj7, Dm, Em.
I would assume this is in the key of A minor.
How would I go about writing a solo for this? I mean, instead of just fooling around using an A minor scale, what is the theoretical way to do this? How do I link parts of the solo with each part of the chord progression?
A: You are correct; this progression is in the key of A minor. The most common way to solo or create a melody over this progression would be to use the A natural minor or minor pentatonic scales.
You can use target notes within these scales, such as targeting a D note when the progression goes to the D minor chord. You can also target the root or fifth of a chord for different sounds.
There is an advanced method of soloing called "Chordal Soloing" where you actually change scales for each chord. Using this soloing method you would play an A minor scale over the Am chord, then an F major scale over the Fmaj7 chord, and so on. This soloing method is very advanced and will take time to master since you will have to switch scale and target notes very quickly.
Chris Dawson; Austin, TX
Q: I was wondering how to use a metronome. Somebody told me it doesn’t really matter as long as you stay on the beat, but on what accent? If you want to improve your triplets do you do 3 notes in between each beat or do you do 1 note on each beat? I am a bit confused.
A: A metronome is a great tool to use to help improve your timing and build speed. You have to listen to an outside beat while you are playing and this will help you get the experience of playing with another instrument too.
Here is how I suggest that you start to use the metronome. Set it at a slow tempo to start, say around 70bpm and play through a scale that you are very familiar with. Hitting one note each time you hear a click; you are playing quarter notes.
Next play two notes for each click, you will now be playing eighth notes.
Now for a challenge, pick four notes for every click, this will be sixteenth notes. Now if this is too fast at 70bpm slow the tempo down until you can play this easily.
Triplets that you referred to are played by hitting three notes for each click. This is a bit more challenging because it is an uneven number and may take a few days of practice to get the feel.
By using the metronome as you practice you can increase your speed in small increments every few days and build speed and technique while getting concept of timing. I suggest that you use this device while practicing all your scales and exercise.